Anxiety in the oilfield

I work for an international oil & gas company, and over the last 5 years or so have worked in all corners of the world. I've just started a new assignment working offshore on an oil rig in India.

While it's usual for me to have a bit of anxiety, homesickness or just nerves when starting a new assignment somewhere, this time has been different. A mixture of conditions on the rig, lack of other expats to talk to and a new role have meant I've really struggled. I've been feeling constantly anxious and have barely slept. Getting to sleep is not such a problem as I'm exhausted, but I always seem to wake up after a few hours in the middle of a panic attack. All I can think about at those times is that I want to get off the rig and go home.

I've got 2 weeks left of this hitch (I work 4 weeks on, 4 weeks off) then I can go home. I'm getting better at coping with the anxiety (sleeping pills to help me sleep, and talking to home to help me calm down during panic attacks) to the point that during my shift, I'm ok with only a background feeling of being tense. I'm still waking up with panic attacks though, and the morning is the worst time.

My dilemma is, should I come back to the rig after my 4 weeks time off? When I'm in panic mode, the answer is a definite "No way!" but when I'm having one of my more positive moments I can't help but thinking I'm a fraud, and that I should just man up and get on with it.

This is obviously different from a lot of other people who unfortunately can't escape their anxiety. To escape mine, I know I just need to go home and I'll be fine. Is deliberately coming back to the rig in India, with the inevitable consequences, stupid or brave? Is there any chance I could make myself worse by putting myself in this situation?

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  • Hi jampie,

    I first thing we must understand about anxiety and panics is, the only way we can be free of them is to face them, see them through, and carry on.

    This by no means is about manning up, its about being skillfull in our mind, and that takes practice, and lots of it.

    I'm not sure if financially you will need to go on the rigs in the future, so its a bit difficult to give an opinion on staying or going.

    However, what I can say is, you have 2 weeks left, why not do some practice now.

    You say;

    " A mixture of conditions on the rig, lack of other expats to talk to and a new role have meant I've really struggled. "

    Here, can you try and talk with some of the other people on the rig? try to join in, I'm sure you can find some common ground.

    I've been feeling constantly anxious and have barely slept. Getting to sleep is not such a problem as I'm exhausted, but I always seem to wake up after a few hours in the middle of a panic attack. All I can think about at those times is that I want to get off the rig and go home.

    This is because you are wanting to be in another place rather than where you are right now. If we are happy in ourselves, it doesn't matter where we are, we sit in our body and experience the day, not judging it as good or bad, its just experience.

    You say

    " I'm ok with only a background feeling of being tense. I'm still waking up with panic attacks though, and the morning is the worst time. "

    That tension, is because of want, wanting to be in another place other than there, its causing friction in you mind. Here you can, just change how you look at the situation, it really is ok being there.

    See we could be here there anywhere and if anxiety appears, its not the place causing it, its us fighting ourselves and wanting something different.

    Its wanting mind, this wanting can take many forms, wanting to be secure, happy, wanting to survive, be loved, its also has specific wants like an object of desire, friendships, food, this colour this kind of surrounding or some other kind. there's wanting to not have pain, wanting things to be a specific way.

    So our thoughts want to be satisfied and if there not we become anxious. When there's wanting mind that moment feels incomplete. Wanting is seeking elsewhere,

    Completeness is being right here NOW this moment. Its all we have really :-)

    you say;

    " My dilemma is, should I come back to the rig after my 4 weeks time off? When I'm in panic mode, the answer is a definite "No way!" but when I'm having one of my more positive moments I can't help but thinking I'm a fraud, and that I should just man up and get on with it. "

    Don't try and answer this at the moment, you can make that decision when you are at home in the UK, now all you will do is cause even more friction, as your cannot see clearly because of the anxiety.

    so tell yourself evertime that question comes up "I will decide when I'm back in the UK"

    You say;

    " This is obviously different from a lot of other people who unfortunately can't escape their anxiety. To escape mine, I know I just need to go home and I'll be fine. "

    Are you sure :-)

    You say;

    Is deliberately coming back to the rig in India, with the inevitable consequences, stupid or brave? Is there any chance I could make myself worse by putting myself in this situation? "

    Dont decide now, decide once you have understood what a panic is, and how to deal with one.

    With the right coping practice, anxiety can just disperse within 3 minutes, and we are left asking, why has this ruined my life for so long when all I had to do was this coping practice.

    Hope this makes some sense, and it speaks to you of truth,

    I wish you well

    B

    xxx

    Compassion

  • Sorry got waylaid by the wife,

    Can we think of any pain in our life that was not caused by change? When we deeply see this flux we dont recoil in fear of what might be coming but rather begin to open to how things are.

    we dont get lost in fatalistic imaginings or nothing matter nihilisms, but instead recognise that everything matters equally.

    When wanting becomes the object of observation, we watch with a clear attention that isn't coloured by judgement or choice it is simple bare attention with nothing added; an openness to recieve things as they are. We see that wanting is automatic, a conditioned urge in the mind and we watch without judging ourselves for wanting. We dont impatiently wamt to be rid of wanting. We simple observe it.

    Only the bare attention, that non-wantingness, that can just be in the moment, has the power to recondition our compulsive reaction to wanting. It disconnects the intense pull of conditioning towards satifying its wants. Each moment of non wanting is a moment of freedom.

    So in summary, were not trying to be away from the oil rig, we just observe it whilst working sitting eating, without judgement, smile to yourself,

    you are safe,

    Here's some tips on practice;

    First we have to understand that, too many thoughts about past and future, burn us out, and are not helpful in getting us better so;

    whilst closing or lowering your eyes, observe your breathing, dont try to change it, just observe it, without judgement or evaluation, without seeing naming measuring, no motive, just be with yourself in this present moment.

    If the breathing feels laboured focus on another part of you body, like the heart. Feel how love makes you feel, and send it to your heart, softening around the area of the heart.

    If thoughts come into your mind, welcome them in, sit down and have a cup of tea with them, without indentifying them as yourself, there just thoughts.

    Like you would sit with a friend, listening without having to take those thoughts on board.

    then gently return to the present, experiencing what actually is going on NOW. a birds song, the wind across our face, the feeling of sitting, connecting with our badies weight on the chair, the feet on the floor, how do they feel, notice it, but dont judge it as good or bad.

    And keep doing it................you can walk about, maybe focusing on how the foot touches the floor each step, left foot right foot.

    Its that simple, honest, just keep doing it, gently, and with compassion for yourself, and others.

    So in summary all your doing is putting your mind inside your body, in the present moment, and accepting it.

    If you feel wound up, close the eyes imagine a spiral in front of you, and see which way it is turning, then simply, make it turn in the other direction, for a little while. That supposed to ease the tension from the body.

    Try relaxing, letting the anxiety wash over you, it cant harm you, its just feel horrible, and relax into the anxiety, and it will disperse gradually. Imagine you were in water laying on your back, doing nothing just floating, giving in to the pain, and let time pass.

    Hope it helps.

    B

    xxx

  • Hi, I am so sorry you are on this bad patch it must be so difficult for you when working on the rig, my husband was in the oil business and its most demanding and can be quite scary at times, thats without the added problem of your anxiety. I can sympathise with you and no doubt some days are harder to cope with. Try to relax when you can, its not an illness and as we know mostly of our own making, but that doesn't make it any easier I know. Thinking of you with a hug cotonroad

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